Press conferences sponsored by a company to promote their own product are supposed to be impressive, intense, and irreverent. By default they also end up being inane and inconsequential. Leave it to Microsoft to not follow the rules.
Oh don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of the ‘i’ moments in the Xbox conference. The Doom III demo at the very start was as impressive and intense as it was inconsequential. Everyone figured D3 would make it to Xbox, though few knew for sure. Microsoft was equally irreverent at the show as well, showcasing its considerable pinache for hokey antics. Though we didn’t see Bill Gates dress up in an outfit to blast a Doom monster, there was enough silly dialogue and goofy acting by Microsoft executives to go around. That’s the whole point of course – pulling off cheese in front of a live audience while displaying complete confidence has a certain disarming effect.
Your high school English teacher no doubt explained the standard formula for a strong essay. You start with something potent that catches the attention, put your weakest arguments in the middle and finish with a bang. Speeches, performances and conferences work much in the same way. For the Xbox conference, Doom III blew the doors open and got everyone’s attention. Halo 2 delivered a classic closing performance, being demonstrated in a live, interactive demo by one of the Bungie designers. Close to the beginning and end were powerful supporting performances from Namco and Rare, and to keep us awake in the middle, Microsoft brought in Peyton Manning to deliver a few ‘your defense is… offensive’ lines.
Sports games are a big draw on the Xbox, that’s obvious to anyone. But to bring in Peyton Manning to highlight them at a conference? Surely that’s a waste, isn’t it? Not when you’re promoting not a game, but XSN.
What’s XSN? XSN is the next phase of Xbox Live. It was, or at least should have been, the point of the conference. Microsoft is going to do on Xbox what EA failed to with EA.com. XSN will feature global stat tracking for every kind of game. XSN will allow players to create and join tournaments and leagues. XSN will completely, totally and utterly supplement every kind of online Xbox league in existence. It will provide chat rooms as meeting grounds and, we assume, some sort of way to schedule players and commit them to matches in their leagues and tournaments.